The recent death of a University of Virginia student and the arrest of her former boyfriend for suspected murder once again casts a shadow over the safety of our nation’s colleges.
The high level of media attention paid to this case and other events gives us a sense that campuses are out of control. In reality, our college and university campuses are safe places.
But administrators could do a better job in some areas…
The UVA death occurred in an apartment just off campus, making it unfair to blame the university or campus law enforcement. Yet friends of the dead woman said the ex-boyfriend had abused and threatened her many times. A well-publicized, university-sponsored hotline would have given those friends a place to leave anonymous tips might have made a difference.
Sexual assaults are still too prevalent on many campuses. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in five women will be victims of an attempted or actual sexual assault during their college careers. Campuses need to offer police escort services for any student at night.
All student housing facilities should have cardkey-controlled entries and security cameras. Access to student housing should be limited to residents only and all visitors should be identified and registered before being allowed to enter. Security card-based access control systems enhance student safety by keeping unwanted visitors out. Security cameras act as deterrents to crime and can provide valuable evidence when incidents do occur. Also, video can be used to monitor issues happening real-time.
These are just a couple of ideas for keeping our higher education campuses safer. There is more that can be done. I’ll talk about that in another blog.
Patrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.
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